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How does telehealth impact malpractice insurance?

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Providers do not normally like to think about malpractice insurance or any scenario where they’d need it. But because telehealth is getting popular, providers and insurance companies are starting to wonder how to handle telehealth from a malpractice perspective. Many providers assume telehealth will raise your liability. But actually, that’s not the case. 

Telehealth = lowered liability 

When you think about why we need malpractice insurance, is it because we prescribed the wrong asthma medication? Or because a patient’s family claims an emergency room physician didn’t get the patient to a neurosurgeon fast enough after her traumatic brain injury? 

Because telehealth physicians are more likely to deal with routine checkups and prescription-writing than complex, high-risk procedures, telehealth tends to be a low liability. And that’s good news when we start looking for malpractice insurance that covers our telehealth practice. 

Little history of past claims 

The history of telehealth stretches back for decades to the days of pagers when doctors would be on-call and “visit” with patients over the phone rather than in the office. And still, little is known about successful malpractice claims made against telehealth physicians over the years. Those claims seem to be few and far between. 

This could be because physicians reached settlements in these cases, which means minimal reporting of them, and confidentiality agreements were signed by patients. But even as the number of telehealth visits rises exponentially each year, the rate of malpractice claims against telehealth physicians won’t increase at the same pace. 

Benefits of documentation 

An issue with some telehealth services is that often physicians on-call would talk to patients over the phone and then call in a prescription without ever documenting it. This could be a liability if a patient comes back and says, “Well, why did you prescribe me this medication?” And you have no documentation…

But with more recent developments in telehealth technology, secure video chat platforms are replacing old fashioned phone calls, and often provide a place to capture notes from the online visit. That means better documentation of conversations with patients. Better documentation means less liability for you if something goes wrong.